By Jessica Connor
United Methodist nonviolence advocates have drafted a resolution on gun violence to go before the thousands of the denomination's clergy and laity June 1-4 during Annual Conference in Florence.
The Resolution on Gun Violence—submitted by United Methodists in the ecumenical, nonpartisan, nonprofit Faith Coalition on Gun Violence—encourages the S.C. Conference to change the focus on guns and gun violence in our society; raise awareness about gun violence, its prevention and its impact on families and communities; promote responsible gun ownership by providing information about gun safety and security; educate the public about alternatives to violence through conflict resolution; and advocate for civil discourse, cooperation and collaboration for real security and a less violent society and culture.
It also specifies that the conference actively support the aims and purposes of the Faith Coalition on Gun Violence and adopt an official stance against gun violence in all its manifestations in our society, plus promote sustained, reasonable efforts to effect a change in our culture that has allowed such violence to flourish.
Among other things, the resolution cites concerns that gun violence in our society has reached intolerable levels, with far too many children, young adults and others being killed or injured by guns, and the prevalence of guns in our society has desensitized many people to the effects, both immediate and long term, of gun violence. Further, it says, enactment of consistent and comprehensive regulations regarding licensing of and training for legal gun owners has failed at local, state and federal levels, and state and federal government entities have been unwilling to adequately address the issues of guns and gun violence in our communities.
The Gospel talks about the vision of the Kingdom, a vision of a different kind of order in society rather than the domination version we re in, said Dr. John Dickey Evans, retired United Methodist pastor and chair of the Faith Coalition on Gun Violence. This document is an effort to put before the conference. ¦ It s a local effort to offer an alternative perspective through the lens of nonviolence as taught in the New Testament.
Hayes Mizell, a member of Trenholm Road United Methodist Church, Columbia, is another who signed the resolution. Mizell said he has a heightened interest in seeing the resolution pass because a few years ago his 17-year-old grandson, Marley Lion, was murdered in Charleston in a random act of gun violence. Marley was the only biological child of Mizell s youngest daughter.
It was a senseless murder in which he was literally asleep in a car and had woken up after he saw people approaching, and one of the guys just fired six shots into the car and killed him, Mizell said. Something like that really brings it home to you rather than some general philosophical or moral concerns you may have.
Mizell said the irresponsible use of guns is a major concern, and the church needs to take a stand.
I think we all know we live in a gun culture state in a gun culture country, and nobody s got any problems with people having guns, but the easy availability of guns is a worry, Mizell said. And in the case of the murder of our grandson, it was a street gun with a filed-down serial number.
Other resolution submitters beyond Evans and Mizell include Kay Ayers-Garren and Charles A. Garren, the Rev. Constance Connie Barnes, the Rev. Franklin and Becky Buie, the Rev. Wiley and Emily Cooper, the Rev. John Wesley Culp, Dr. Carl Evans, Kathy Handel, John Holladay, Mark Huguley, Dr. Carolyn Jenkins, Carol Krebs, Dr. Thomas A. Summers, Kate Swanson and Dr. Tom Wall.
Sej Harman, a Unitarian Universalist who is also a member of the coalition, said gun violence has come to the top of my personal list of priorities ”the most prominent being the growing callousness toward life, the cold-hearted disregard for even the innocent ”children, as evidenced by the Sandy Hook incident in 2012.
Harman said gun violence enables perpetrators to distance themselves from their targets, allowing them to see their victims as less than human, as not having worth and dignity.
We sometimes want to put our heads under the covers and hope it all goes away. But it doesn t, she said. Gun violence is counter to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the foundation of the church itself. The church is supposed to be the transformational agent for Jesus Christ here on earth, and therefore it must engage the hearts and minds of people to raise our collective consciousness about gun violence and its effects on individuals and on the social fabric of families, communities and our nation.
This resolution and others to be considered at Annual Conference will be posted soon on the S.C. Conference website at www.umcsc.org/home/resources/2014-annual-conference/ .
All are welcome to the Faith Coalition on Gun Violence s monthly luncheon meeting and discussion the third Tuesday of each month at noon. For details, including location, contact the Rev. John Evans at 803-931-0888 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Sej Harman at 803-730-7208 or email@example.com.
Gun Giveback Event is April 19
On April 19, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, the Faith Coalition on Gun Violence will hold a gun giveback event, where people are encouraged to turn in guns.
The giveback will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the parking lot of Washington Street UMC, 1401 Washington St., Columbia, SC 29201.
Organizers are exploring the possibility of melting down the guns and having them turned into a sculpture that would symbolize nonviolence.
For information: 803-931-0888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.